The NFC Championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers came down to which team’s defense could prevent the most big plays, which team’s offense could eke out a few first downs, and ultimately it came down to the final two minutes when 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick had a chance to win—or lose—the game.
The second half of the Seattle/San Francisco game was a grinding defensive struggle, and as those sorts of games often do, the outcome revolved around a few big plays. Whether Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson could engineer the most breakout plays to exploit the occasional flaw in the opponent’s defense made the difference.
Here Seattle had the edge, as almost all of San Francisco’s attack depended mostly on Colin Kaepernick, while Seattle got more help from running backs and wide receivers and kick returners.
Equally important proved to be which team’s quarterback made the fewest devastating errors.
The Seattle Seahawks defense got stronger in the second half of the game, while San Francisco’s got more tired. In the end Colin Kaepernick could not single-handedly win the game—in fact, for everything her did to win it, he did more to lose it.
Colin Kaepernick’s 58-yard scramble in the first half set up the 49er’s first touchdown. Marshawn Lynch’s 40-yard blast in the third quarter tied the game. Kaepernick came right back with a 22-yard run and a 26-yard scoring pass.
Doug Baldwin responded with a 69-yard kickoff return to give Seattle good field position, but once again San Francisco held them to a field goal.
San Francisco’s next drive ended in a three-and-out with a questionable Running Into the Kicker (versus Roughing the Kicker) call which would have been a first down. This gave Seattle good field position, which for the first time all night paid off.
The 49ers defense worked just as hard, chasing Russell Wilson all over the field and forcing an intentional grounding call. A 15-yard pass led Seattle’s coach to try to convert on fourth-and seven-set which proved to be an excellent decision, as Russell found Jermaine Kearse in the end zone with a 45-yard touchdown pass, giving Seattle the lead 20–17.
Turnovers Take a Toll
Throughout the second half Seattle’s defense was getting closer and closer to Colin Kaepernick, and on the next 49ers drive defensive end Cliff Avril knocked the ball loose and the other DE Michael Bennett, covered it on the San Francisco six yard line.
On third down Wilson hit Golden Tate on the one. SF’s NaVorro Bowman tackled Tate and stripped the ball, but after the rest of both teams piled on and were peeled off, the ball was awarded to Seattle, even though the replay clearly showed Bowman down and in possession. NFL rules state who recovers a fumble on the field is not reviewable—despite the clear videotape evidence.
Worse still, Bowman twisted his leg and had to be helped off the field.
On fourth and goal, Marshawn Lynch missed the handoff. Seattle recovered the loose ball on the SF 15, but handed it over on downs, only three points ahead with eight-and a-a-half minutes to go.
Despite two very questionable calls against them, San Francisco defense kept the Seahawks 0–3 in the Red Zone. On the first play from scrimmage, Colin Kaepernick threw all that away—literally—by tossing an interception to Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.
One more time San Francisco’s defense came through, forcing another field goal, giving the 49ers the ball down six with 3:43 left in the game—and maybe in the season.
The Decisive Drive
Seattle’s defense had one chance to seal the win; Colin Kaeperniock had one chance to steal the win. One man versus eleven.
Seattle’s defense stopped LaMichael James for no gain. Kaepernick hit Anquan Boldin for eight, but missed Michaell Crabtree, throwing into traffic.
Kaepernick then converted on fourth-and-two, scrambling left to fire 17 yards to Frank Gore along the sideline, keeping San Francisco in the game. A Kaerpernick run took the team into Seattle territory, then a 16-yard pass to Michael Crabtree took them to the 29.
Kkaepernick had 30 seconds to cover 20 yards and score a touchdown to go to the Super Bowl.
Kaepernick brought the team to the line without a huddle, took the snap and fired a pass deep into the corner where Michael Crabtree was covered by two Seahawks. The ball was tipped into the air by cornerback Richard Sherman and caught by linebacker Malcolm Smith.
Kaepernick had put the 49ers ahead, cost them points, given them another chance … and ended their season.
The Seattle Seahawks defense had a lot to do with it. As the game went on, Seattle tuned in to the 49ers’ schemes, pressuring Kaepernick in the pocket, stifling most of his runs, and covering his receivers.
Seattle is headed to the Super Bowl—the best defense in the league will face the best offense in history. Judging by today’s games, it might well be the Denver defense beating the Seattle offense which will give the Broncos the win.